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Members of the British royal family have always been careful to find a balance between setting and following fashions, reluctant to engage fully with an industry that often defines their public image.
From Princess Diana to Kate, the Princess of Wales, the younger and more glamorous members of the house of Windsor have attempted to keep the media spotlight on their work, instead of on their outfits, but there have been notable exceptions over the years.
British royals have had a presence at fashion shows for decades, from presentations of seasonal garments in the early 20th century to the Fashion Week shows we know today.
Princess Diana in Madrid
Throughout her working life as a member of the royal family and after her divorce in 1996, Princess Diana wanted to be seen as a workhorse rather than a clotheshorse, often eschewing questions about fashion from interviewers and directing attention toward her charity efforts.
In private, the princess was a keen follower of fashion and was connected with nearly all of the major design talents in Britain.
On a rare occasion where she attended a fashion show, Diana was accompanied by her husband, Prince Charles (now King Charles III), during a royal visit to Madrid in 1987.
While on their tour, the prince and princess were viewed as promotional ambassadors for Britain, and the Madrid catwalk display showcased the talents of British designers to the Spanish markets. These included Diana’s own favorite designers, Caroline Charles and Bruce Oldfield.
Sarah Ferguson in New York
The duchess was often criticized for her style, being louder and more eccentric than the sleek chic favored by Diana.
In the later years of her marriage, Fergie attempted to shed the criticism she faced in the 1980s and engaged with fashion designers overseas for her outfits. Since then, she has attended a number of shows, including those by friend Michael Kors in New York.
In 2007, the duchess was photographed at Kors’ New York Fashion Week show seated beside future President Donald Trump.
Queen Elizabeth and the Princess of Wales
Queen Elizabeth II attended a number of fashion shows throughout her life, more frequently in the 1940s and 1950s than in subsequent decades, which were arranged to promote the British fashion industry.
In 2012, to mark her Diamond Jubilee Elizabeth undertook her first solo engagement with newly married granddaughter-in-law Kate Middleton (now the Princess of Wales).
Kate has a strong interest in fashion and worked as an accessories buyer at a British label before her marriage. With this interest in mind, Kate’s engagement with the queen included attending a presentation of fashions designed by students at De Montfort University in England.
Meghan Markle’s Fashion Friendship
Meghan Markle developed her passion for fashion through her lifestyle blog, The Tig, which was founded in 2014 and included posts about her taste across lifestyle, fashion, food and travel.
One of Meghan’s fashion friendships formed before she joined the royal family was with designer Misha Nonoo, who invited the Suits star to her 2015 showcase at New York Fashion Week.
Meghan was photographed wearing one of Nonoo’s shirts during her first official outing with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in 2017. The royal couple attended Nonoo’s wedding in 2019.
Queen Elizabeth Fashion Royalty
Queen Elizabeth made her first appearance at a London Fashion Week show in 2018 to present the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in connection with the British Fashion Council.
The queen’s appearance was a surprise to fashion watchers and she sat next to Vogue editor Dame Anna Wintour for the presentation. Also included in the front row guest list was the queen’s closest aide and dresser, Angela Kelly who helped design the award statue.
The fashion show saw British designer Richard Quinn displaying his Autumn/Winter 2018 collection before being presented with the design award by the queen in a special post-show ceremony.
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